Friday, September 7, 2012

Holocaust Museums in Israel Evolve

A model of the Treblinka camp at the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum.
Credit: Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times
It isn’t only the history of the Holocaust that you see on display in Israel’s Holocaust museums. It’s also the history of the history of the Holocaust. There is an archaeology of trauma to be found if you look closely, and in its layers and transmutations you see how a nation has wrestled with the burden of one of history’s immense horrors.

Through examining how Israeli museums treat the Holocaust — including the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum here, in a kibbutz in the far north of the country, whose founders included survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising — we can see how visions of that past are changing, sometimes in unsettling ways.

One museum on another, smaller kibbutz, for example, was described in the newspaper Haaretz as “Warsaw-Ghetto Disneyland” for its new emphasis on sound and lighting effects, including a simulation of a cattle car heading to a death camp. The director of the museum at the Ghetto Fighters’ House said that it would increasingly emphasize the broadest lessons of the Holocaust: an “ethical imperative” of “tolerance” that could “influence Israeli society.” And when Yad Vashem in Jerusalem reworked its main exhibition in 2005 — creating the most powerful exposition of this history I have seen — it too modified its approach, with a new focus on feelings and individual stories. -- Eddward Rothstein, NY Times

To read more and see slide show, click here.

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